11.5 Empowering NWS Partners to be Weather-Ready for Outdoor Events. Part II: Evolving Forecast Operations at NWS Chicago

Thursday, 16 January 2020: 12:00 AM
153C (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Eric Lenning, NOAA/NWS Chicago WFO, Romeoville, IL; and M. Bardou

NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) has set the vision for a Weather Ready Nation (WRN) and transformed its operations to enable closer partnerships between NWS offices and public safety officials at all levels of government. This has proven especially valuable when it comes to support for safety at large outdoor events, both during the planning stages and when weather threatens the event itself. Provision of Decision Support Services (DSS) by NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) may be most effective when forecasters are onsite and co-located with those responsible for event safety. This of course is not always practical or possible, especially when a WFO has multiple large events occurring simultaneously in their County Warning Area (CWA). It also becomes a challenge when hazardous weather requires additional personnel at the WFO itself to support warning operations for the protection of life and property.

The definition of a large event also varies greatly from one WFO to another. Offices in rural areas may be able to have someone onsite for an event with just tens of thousands of attendees. In contrast, offices in major metropolitan areas may see numerous such events every weekend. These offices may only be able to go onsite for events orders of magnitude larger. This reflects the fact that staffing profiles remain nearly identical at all WFOs regardless of their population footprint, other service demands (e.g. aviation and marine), and hazardous weather climatology. The challenge for such offices is to provide equally effective support for events of all sizes.

Part 1 of this presentation discusses how WFO Chicago responds to this challenge by utilizing the Event Ready concept and working extensively with public safety officials in the months and weeks before an event. Part 2 explains how the office continues to evolve its forecast operations to provide the enhanced DSS expected by its partners after their familiarization with the Event Ready process. Its approach follows and builds upon the NWS Central Region WRN Roadmap, with local adaptations necessitated by the disproportionately large population of the Chicago CWA relative to other Central Region offices. These adaptations, which incorporate lessons learned from tabletop exercises and previous on-site deployments, emphasize the importance of frequent near-term and real-time briefings. However, these briefings are conducted as if the forecaster was onsite at every event both large and small. Early positive feedback from partners suggests this may be a way to provide one-to-many DSS remotely with nearly the same effectiveness as actually having someone onsite.

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